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Monday, December 25, 2017

Why Do Mexicans Make Tamales For Christmas?

Merry Christmas everyone!  By now many of you have engaged in the Christmas tradition of opening up presents.  Here's to you getting exactly what you asked Santa for!  (Gulp...imbibing eggnog).  My wife, Jessica, and I opted to stay home for Christmas this year.  Usually we travel to San Jose to reunite with my parents and siblings.  Jessica's mother is a JW (Jehovah's Witness) by the way, so there is never any arguing about where we should go and who we should spend the most time with.  However, too many unexpected expenses forced us to stay in Oceanside, and celebrate Christmas at home.  This means none of us will get to enjoy eating my mother's delicious homemade tamales.
Image result for mexican tamales



If you've never had an authentic Mexican tamal (singular), you are missing out!  There are other types of tamales of course.  I especially like Colombian ones for their colorful and tasty interiors.  But my mother's are my favorites.  I grew up eating them every December!  Every December as a child and adolescent I'd walk into the kitchen area of our apartment, and later, duplex, and see my mother going to town on all that masa (nixtamal corn dough) with her hands.  She'd put some of it on a corn husk, add some red chile pork mixture on top, close it all up perfectly, and place them to cook in a big steamer.

Indeed, on many Christmas days back in the 1980's, I'd open many more tamales then I would actual presents.  And so, when I first heard the joke, "Why do Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?... Because that's the only thing they have to unwrap," to me it made plenty of sense.  Was it racially insensitive?  Yeah.  I mean not all Mexicans are poor for one.  Two, not all Mexicans celebrate Christmas...there are plenty of JW and Jewish Mexicans all over the world.  The joke was nonetheless funny, in a cruel sort of way for those like me who didn't have many presents under their Christmas tree.

The most expensive Christmas present I ever got as an adolescent was a Nintendo Entertainment System.  The original one that came with Mario Bros and Duck Hunt.  My parents bought it on layaway at Kmart.  Prior to this epic gift, I'd gotten underwear and socks mostly as Christmas gifts, with an occasional cheap toy thrown in there.  This bit of reflection made me wonder and think about all of the kids in our country these days.


Image result for nintendo entertainment system


How many of them are not opening up toys and things that bring them joy this morning?  Because perhaps they're living in their cars with their parent(s)?  Heck, how many kids are opening up presents bought with credit cards whose balance will not be paid in full for many more months to come?  Parents are under an extreme amount of pressure these days to buy their kids things that don't fall under "necessities," like underwear and socks.

Buying Useless Things Is Not The Epitome Of The Christmas Spirit! 

According to the NCCP, 15 million children or 21% of all children, live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold.  Not all of these kids live in households that celebrate Christmas, obviously.  Still, that's a considerable amount of poor kids.  We can all agree that these kids having all of their Maslow hierarchical needs met is way more important than getting a slew of Christmas presents, especially toys.  After their life basics, these kids need other essentials like clothing.  Getting toys, games, electronics, or other expensive items is NOT necessary.

You are NOT a bad parent if you can't get your child the toy or item they desired.  Being disappointed on Christmas day builds character, AND what I call, "poverty resentment."  And oh is P.R. ever motivating.  All I could think of as a youth from Christmas day until school resumed was one day making enough money to buy a bunch of gifts in order to fill every void underneath my future Christmas trees.  The sitcoms on television further cemented this picture in my head.  All to say that consumerism is alive and well in 2017.

Poverty resentment should be channeled to building a life of financial independence, however, not to keep welcoming in poverty trapping habits.  So we must teach our children that Christmas is not about getting presents.  It's about celebrating Jesus, a poor man who lived a long time ago and offered many wise teachings to the world.

If a nice meal is all you can afford to provide for your children on Christmas day, then so be it.  That's not something to be ashamed about!  Not when your child has all the other essentials in his or her life.  The joke about Mexicans and the unwrapping of tamales on Christmas day because of lack of presents is over thirty years old!  Apart from being racially charged, it's also a sad statement about gift buying being a Christmas (not a Christian) priority.  America's obsession with gift purchasing for Christmas is even more sickening today.  The average American spent roughly $906 on gifts this year. 

Now it's time for you to reflect on this Christmas day.  Did you go overboard, buying your kids (or other family) presents?  If your kid could unwrap a present and instead of a tangible item, take out exactly what was missing in their life, e.g., more attention from you, more time you could spend with them, etc., wouldn't that be more significant?

I'd like to re-write that stupid joke before I go:

Why do Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?
Answer: To eat something other than the pozole, duh!


Image result for pozole


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